There are very few things I hate in life. I scoff at lots of things, and scorn a handful more. I even loathe, despise, strongly dislike, and find a few more distasteful. But I hate very little.
At the top of my hate list though? Loss that involves loved ones.
I'm throwing up special prayers tonight for my old and dear friend Corissa and her husband Jeff. They lost their son on Tuesday. From all I'd read the proud parents in daily updates, little Adam, born several months premature just a few weeks ago, was a trooper and tried his damndest to beat the odds.
I could wax poetic right now and say wannabe-profound stuff like "What doesn't kill you..."
But all that stuff is about as useful as a greeting card - not at all - on those hopefully rare occasions when you have to live the catch phrases and not just read 'em.
Some of you may recall that when Mrs. B and I lost our child, who was just a few weeks younger than Adam, in October of '07, one of the first "revelations" I had was that what doesn't kill you can (and likely will) still really piss you off, or discourage you...at first, anyway.
And the feeling I remember most from the aftermath is the hate I felt for the loss itself. Giving birth and sustaining life isn't a contest, but even if it was how do you compete with Death? You can't. Hell, even the Bible makes reference to Death's "sting."
Poetic stuff aside, I do have a few things to share in this makeshift open letter to Corissa and Jeff, and any other parents facing this kind of loss who might stumble across Burnettiquette:
- Let the grief flow, but let it come at its own pace;
- Embrace your grief the way you'd inhale a sweet fragrance. That embrace will help keep you grounded even as your head swims, your heart races, and your soul aches.
- Don't stifle your grief for the sake of making friends and family who come to support you feel less awkward. Take care of you. If you need to cry or rage or scream or just brood, go ahead. They'll deal with it.
- Ladies don't apologize if you feel up and down in a matter of seconds and need to vent in a very tight perimeter. The folks closest to you should expect it. It's not a sexist expectation. It's just human and supported by science.
- Guys, grieve how you want to grieve and don't feel obligated to cry 'cause everyone else in the room does. Conversely, don't feel obligated to be the strong, stoic one 24/7.
- Again, guys, don't get defensive when people ask you about 10,000 times more than you want to answer, "How are you doing?" They mean well and genuinely want to know, because they don't get that men and women often express grief differently - again, not sexist, just fact born out by science.
- Parents, when your friends and family have gone back home or wherever, just keep each other company. Your home will feel too big and empty for a days. And you'll feel inclined sometimes to force conversation the way we all did as kids on first dates. Don't force it. Like the grief, let the conversation flow when its ready.
- Finally, whatever you do, recognize the wiiiiiiiiiide ranging emotions aimed at you by your partner as manifestations of the different stages of grief.
That's all I can say. Stay strong, Corry and Jeff. And R.I.P. Adam.